Author Topic: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?  (Read 23754 times)

lhamo

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Had another blowout with DH, largely due to issues in communication style and how I respond to his criticisms.  Good news is that we were able to talk about it last night and he is going to try to be more sensitive about how he communicates his opinions.  Bad news is I already have a really bad pattern established of hearing his criticisms (which come frequently and much more often than positive comments) as value judgments about me as a mother, a wife and a person.  I feel like I am never able to meet his standards, that the effort I put into keeping our lives running smoothly is not noticed or appreciated, and that the bar is always moving upward so that no matter how hard I try I still am falling short.  I understand that there are certain aspects of this that are as difficult for him to change as my issues are for me to change.  But I have asked him to at least try to be more like a cheerleader than a drill sergeant.  I have a really hard time dealing with criticism in general, and criticism from a loved one is the hardest kind.

Does anyone else struggle with these types of issues?  More importantly, has anyone been able to make positive steps in addressing something like this?  Would greatly appreciate a discussion of strategies and tools for working on this issue.  I recognize that the bulk of the responsibility actually lies with me -- as I tell my kids all the time, you can't control what another person does, you can only control your reaction to it.  So, I clearly need to work on not hearing every criticism from him as a statement that I suck as a wife and mother.  He told me quite clearly last night that he does not think that, but somehow that voice is still there in my head. 

Human psychology is so complicated....

Freedom2016

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2014, 03:55:03 PM »
Not to be a total shill, but there's a new book out called "Thanks for the Feedback" that is squarely about the art of receiving feedback well. I know the authors and I teach this material, so take that for what it's worth.

From a book signing flyer: "[R]eceiving feedback sits at the junction of two conflicting human desires. We do want to learn and grow. And we also want to be accepted just as we are right now. Thanks for the Feedback is the first book to address this tension head on. It explains why getting feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, and offers a powerful framework to help us take on life’s blizzard of off-hand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited advice with curiosity and grace."

If you can't get your hands on the book, google the title/authors and you'll find several decent write-ups in the popular press that include some tips from the book.

TheBreeze

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2014, 05:01:37 PM »
This is just my opinion, and I know nothing about you other than your above post, so I don't mean to assume anything or offend.

In my experiences, people who take things personally on a regular basis often have insecurities surrounding themselves that predispose them to assuming someone's comments are scathing or unduly critical. "There cannot be external peace until there is internal peace," I.e. Peace with yourself. Dig deep and ask the big questions about who you are on the deepest levels and what that means for you, and work on accepting yourself for all the great things you can offer, like being a good mother and wife, etc, at the same time accepting your flaws and cracks.

Now, it's totally possible that you don't have any insecurities and your DH might just be that kind of person whose criticism toes the line between constructive and destructive naturally. Then I would no doubt say that's more his communication problem than yours.

No clue if any of that will be helpful, and again I don't mean to assume too much or offend...
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 06:01:29 AM by TheBreeze »

Gray Matter

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2014, 05:39:28 PM »
I think you're a fabulous wife, mother, employee, citizen of the world!  :-)

A couple of thoughts...might there be cultural differences at play?  (I'm making some assumptions based on your being an expat with local in-laws, so correct me if I'm wrong).  I know my friends who are Chinese are very blunt--they just call it like they see it.  The value of that is you know where you stand, and you can take what they say at face value and don't have to read anything into it (like I'm inclined to do).  Believe you me, if they thought I was a bad mom, they would tell me.  So if they question why I let my child outside in 40 degree weather without a jacket, that's all they're questioning, not my parenting.  If there are cultural communication differences involved, I would remind myself of that often.

And building off of what TheBreeze said, it's possible it hurts so much because he's hitting sore spots.  His comments may be quite mild, but when they poke at an area that is already sensitive, it's painful.  I, too, have a hard time accepting criticism, and it's not because I think I'm perfect, but quite the opposite.  It's because I am so self-critical, and I take other's criticism so seriously, that a mild remark cuts deep with me.  But that is my problem, not theirs (as you said).  You may not be able to stop yourself from feeling it, but you may be able to create a little mental distance from your feelings and just let them pass without using them as a reason to engage or escalate the conversation with your DH.

Good luck--marital communications can be difficult.  I believe in a marriage that both parties have a responsibility to adapt to improve the communication, but at the end of the day, you're right that the only person you can change is yourself.  (And I have found even that to be extraordinarily difficult!).

Krnten

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2014, 05:59:11 PM »
My husband is a bit like this.  Lots of negative thinking, assuming the worst, lots of critiquing.  About the food, about my lax attitude to raising our toddler, about my driving, about our apt, about how he wants me to become a SAHM, etc etc etc.  I take it all with a grain of salt and try to receive it with humor.   WE can also joke about a lot of these things.  It's just his way, he's a bit of a curmudgeon.  When he goes too far, it puts me in a bad mood, which I let him know, and then he coaxes me out of that. 

I have to let him know sometimes - "that's enough.  The next three things you say have to be nice things."  And sometimes just leave for the afternoon for some alone time.  I don't know if it will work for you, but I just try to keep it light.  I feel like we're communicating and negotiating this stuff *all the time*.


shitzmagee

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2014, 06:07:37 PM »
DW and I have battled through this same problem for the last 8+ years. I regularly provide her "feedback" and she in turn snaps back that I am too critical or unappreciative. Now, I definitely appreciate everything she does as a homemaker and mother. My life would be much harder without her. But I like make things better...no matter how good they are already. Nothing's perfect right? So there is always room for improvement. I give what I consider feedback to DW for all kinds of things: recipes, parenting techniques, time management, driving, communicating...you name it and I probably give DW feedback on it. My intent when giving feedback is not to criticize something was just done, but rather to help it be done better next time. Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook. As the stakes go up (like with parenting techniques) so do the hurt feelings and the volume of the ensuing argument. I hope this view of what is probably going through your DH's head helps you understand the other side of the equation.

The good news is we've made significant improvements over the last year after many late night talks. I explained what I was meaning to say and she explained what she was hearing. Naturally, what was coming out of my mouth was not what was going into her ears. She now consciously tries not to take everything so personally. At the same time I am much more conscious about how I phrase feedback and about making sure I also give compliments and verbalize appreciation regularly. We haven't solved this problem yet, but we've made significant progress.

mozar

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2014, 06:25:24 PM »
It may be possible that you need to get better at receiving feedback, but it also may be possible that your husband is a jerk. I used to date people like that, but I've learned boundaries and raised my standards and no longer date people who feel the need to give "feedback." Anyways, you are not looking for divorce advice. As long as DH is making an effort like shitzmagee then it's worth it to keep trying.

p.s. If you think the meal could be better next time, then you should make it. It is rude to say anything but appreciation when someone makes you dinner.

rocklebock

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2014, 07:31:58 PM »
It may be possible that you need to get better at receiving feedback, but it also may be possible that your husband is a jerk. I used to date people like that, but I've learned boundaries and raised my standards and no longer date people who feel the need to give "feedback."

Yup. I've found the advice on this thread to be surprisingly one-sided so far. I was in a relationship where I was the "feedback giver" and "improver" and I'll freely admit that I acted like a jerk, and was projecting my own insecurities by criticizing him for being the person he was (and had been, and always will be). If I'd been a little more emotionally mature, I'd have accepted that my SO wasn't perfect, and asked myself if I could deal with the ways he was imperfect. Since then, I've also dated people who constantly wanted to give me "feedback" and "suggestions," but ended the relationships quickly when they started up with it. It's a red flag for me.

I agree that if he's willing to work on it, that's a good sign. It shouldn't just be about you growing a thicker skin and learning to accept feedback. He needs to own up to his part of it, too. It's a two-way street.

tracylayton

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2014, 07:59:44 PM »
My husband is a bit like this.  Lots of negative thinking, assuming the worst, lots of critiquing.  About the food, about my lax attitude to raising our toddler, about my driving, about our apt, about how he wants me to become a SAHM, etc etc etc.  I take it all with a grain of salt and try to receive it with humor.   WE can also joke about a lot of these things.  It's just his way, he's a bit of a curmudgeon.  When he goes too far, it puts me in a bad mood, which I let him know, and then he coaxes me out of that. 

I have to let him know sometimes - "that's enough.  The next three things you say have to be nice things."  And sometimes just leave for the afternoon for some alone time.  I don't know if it will work for you, but I just try to keep it light.  I feel like we're communicating and negotiating this stuff *all the time*.






I really like that...it's a nice way of saying, "I need a break from the negativity"!

Cressida

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2014, 08:08:28 PM »
p.s. If you think the meal could be better next time, then you should make it. It is rude to say anything but appreciation when someone makes you dinner.

I agree. They probably know perfectly well that it wasn't very good. Saying nothing (that is, not making a point to say that you enjoyed it) will get the message across. If it doesn't, and they make it again and it still isn't good, THEN you can say something. But make it about you - "it's just not something I prefer, but thank you for making it" or something along those lines.

fidgiegirl

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2014, 08:35:02 PM »
Uh oh, you just posted this today.  Big hugs.  This is one of the ideas I have been exploring with my new counselor . . . the taking everything DH says, even if not directed at me, as a criticism of me.  So when he verbalizes aloud, to himself, that he needs to do x, y and z, I immediately hear that he expects ME to do x, y and z and why am I not doing it?!  Now!  Get up and do it!  When really, he's just trying to remember to do it, or prioritize it or whatever other function is served by verbalizing it in the first place.

I tend to react this way in many situations - like I'm NEVER enough, doing enough, perfect enough, enough of anything.  I wonder if it comes from years of being extremely good at the game of school and then coming out into the real world and having to experience the hard blows of life's honesties and disappointments, etc. and never quite understanding when the lines moved and where they moved to, or when/how the rules changed.  For some reason I keep thinking lately about this awards ceremony in 5th grade, where the teachers had all the 5th grade in our little auditorium and were awarding things like best social studies student and best speller and shit like that.  And I won about 9 of the 12 or so awards.  How embarrassing for a 5th grader, first of all, but mostly, I had no idea what I'd done to be Queen Shit of 5th Grade.  I had just done my thing.  So I get it into my head that I'm some superhuman student, but then around that same time, which was so formative, I obviously WASN'T a superhuman, I was a normal bumbly adolescent 5th/6th grader.  So I had these teachers, two of them, males, who I remember did not like the way I did other things, and rather than help me learn what BEHAVIORS I had done that were undesirable, I remember in instance how one just lit into me and saying what a rude person I was and in other instances just give me the dirtiest of looks when I'd done something that was not desirable.  Looking back I can see why they thought the behavior was not acceptable, but I remember in my 5th/6th grade mind being completely perplexed and just thinking I must really be that awful person they said because I had no explanation to go along with why they were so utterly revolted (which was an overreaction on their part, honestly, but they must have really not liked something about me, or they really liked their power/control, and I'll never know which, and it doesn't matter anyway.)

Now, am I blaming this tendency of mine on these two teachers, no.  But it's interesting to reach back and see how long these thoughts have been going, or where they might have been a tiny seed that grew into a tree, a seed that never should have been planted, perhaps it's a scrub tree, a behavior or thought pattern that should have been pulled up with the weeds long ago and dumped on the compost pile, and now it's grown a big root system and is wrecking the foundation of my whole life.

Like, the other day at work someone snapped at me over something ridiculous and instead of thinking, "wow, that was bitchy," and moving along with my day (or pointing it out to her, more nicely of course!), I immediately was like, "what did I do wrong?  Did I do something wrong?  Did I say something wrong?  How could she have misunderstood my not-at-all-ill intent?"  I also proceeded to wreck my whole evening over her crabby comment, which likely had nothing AT ALL to do with me as an individual or even what I'd said to her, but that I could only see after a night's sleep.

I am afraid for you and your DH.  Keep journaling, keep posting . . . such hard stuff.

retired?

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2014, 09:16:30 PM »
It may be possible that you need to get better at receiving feedback, but it also may be possible that your husband is a jerk. I used to date people like that, but I've learned boundaries and raised my standards and no longer date people who feel the need to give "feedback."

Yup. I've found the advice on this thread to be surprisingly one-sided so far. I was in a relationship where I was the "feedback giver" and "improver" and I'll freely admit that I acted like a jerk, and was projecting my own insecurities by criticizing him for being the person he was (and had been, and always will be). If I'd been a little more emotionally mature, I'd have accepted that my SO wasn't perfect, and asked myself if I could deal with the ways he was imperfect. Since then, I've also dated people who constantly wanted to give me "feedback" and "suggestions," but ended the relationships quickly when they started up with it. It's a red flag for me.

I agree that if he's willing to work on it, that's a good sign. It shouldn't just be about you growing a thicker skin and learning to accept feedback. He needs to own up to his part of it, too. It's a two-way street.

Yah, sounds like he is a jerk.  One question would be does he criticize little things (that's close to useless) or things that actually matter?  Granted one can be diplomatic about feedback regardless of the relative importance of the issue, I think that if he complains over minor things, then it is more likely his personal(ity) problem rather than you needing to "improve".

I'm sure he's not perfect.  You could ask "how would you like it if I complained every time you ______________?"

Noodle

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2014, 10:18:10 PM »
A number of years ago, my department had to do one of those personality profiles that showed where everyone was on several ranges of personality traits. The one that has stuck with me was that some people want to point out small things before they get big, as a kindness. Other people believe in letting little things go, and only addressing big things, as a kindness. I tend to be a "let the little things go" person and always felt picked on when people would bring up fairly minor issues (which of course to me seemed like huge things, because those are the only ones worth conflict). It was a revelation to me that other people's minds worked totally differently on this subject, and might have entirely good intentions behind something that felt negative. It also made me feel much freer to take what was useful and leave the rest, since to the person bringing it up, it was not really that big a deal.

FWIW.

lhamo

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2014, 10:40:04 PM »
Thank you all for this awesome and multi-perspective feedback -- very much what I was hoping for/needed.

Where to start?  You have all hit on so many of the key issues. 

1)  My own personal background/psychology.  Yes, this is ultimately what is at the root of this and what I need to address.  I am pretty messed up psychologically and I recognize that.  Serious self esteem issues among other things, related to family of origin issues (loving but demanding/silent/typically pretty critical father who died suddenly when I was 15 and whose death in some ways I feel responsible for -- long story....), abuse during childhood/adolescence (severe bullying and then dysfunctional relationships with two abusive men as my first major intimate relationships), and my own issues (perfectionism, anxiety, poor stress management skills, etc). 

2)  Cultural differences.  Another big one.  DH is not ethnically Chinese, but was raised here in a very traditional family in all it's Asian glory.  I love him/my inlaws to death, but as Grey Matter notes there isn't much pussyfooting around individual sensitivities.  Feedback is often very direct and blunt.  One of the reasons I am asking him to work on the criticism aspect of things is that I see how it affects my kids.  He's always pushing them to do more, be better.  Not that that isn't a good and noble goal, but there needs to be some recognition of what they have achieved as well -- and then we can look at how they can further improve. 

3)  Different perceptions.  Yes, definitely.  Basically what happened the other night was that he criticized me about some stuff, I got upset and shut down, and then some other stuff happened that I misinterpreted and blew WAAAY out of proportion.  We misinterpret each other a lot.  So we've both agreed that we need to work hard on finding a way not to "stuff" our feelings but to get them out there.  I like the "hey I need a break from this conversation" approach -- gives you a way of tabling things until you can think about it rationally and also acknowledge that there is an issue there.  DH also said it is fine with him if I call him on unfair criticisms immediately -- basically gave me permission to say he's full of crap when I feel like it!  The problem is that one of the reasons his comments hurt is because they pick at my own personal insecurities and issues. 

That's about all I can write in what is left of my lunch break.  Hope the conversation will continue.  This is clearly an issue in many relationships and it is great to see how different people deal with it.

Goldielocks

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2014, 10:43:41 PM »
I hear your angst!

Something that is now working for me, is to start with reading "the five love languages"., easy advice to improve couple communication....   and then start actively thinking loving thoughts at DH.   This is like mental visualization exercises, but with loving thoughts.

It only works if you can truly answer "yes" to the "do I love him and would I marry him again, all things considered".... question.

Start the day thinking about how it feels to love this person.   Realize that they are having problems not being critical, and it is just their underlying nature, but they are family, and wrong, and you love them anyway.

Smile and brush it off.   Every so often, you can mention calmly -- "that didn't come out the way you meant it to, I think...." or "That was a bit hurtful", then concentrate on your loving image / feeling, and change the topic deliberately and calmly and talk about something else.   "did you see that lovely picture that child x made in class today"... etc.

I have found that most of the problem is my reaction to it, and it has taken a long time to get over myself.  The more calmly and lovingly I communicate, the fewer of these comments I get, and the more loving comments / actions I get in return  (although I have to open my eyes to see his preferred love language to me as a loving action, I prefer words of appreciation too). 

Partly is that I see what you look for, (I can see lots of negative if I am looking for it, or lots of positive) ; partly is that the negative comments were a bad stress reaction/ pattern of communication of his that I was intentionally breaking with my visualization..

Good luck.   I don't have all my stuff together every day, but its getting easier, and working better as time passes and we both practice.


Edit to add after reading your latest...:  You do not need to be psychologically mixed up to start seeing "dinner was too salty" as an irritating negative comment, especially when positive feedback (verbal) is very low!  I am totally OK, and I was in the same mind set as you.  You are normal for this, it is a common problem (note your quantity of feedback).  I was also able to realize through personality typing and such that the "spontaneous criticism" of his was also a normal trait for some people.  That still did not help me get over it, alone.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 10:48:51 PM by goldielocks »

mxt0133

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2014, 10:53:03 PM »
DW and I have battled through this same problem for the last 8+ years. I regularly provide her "feedback" and she in turn snaps back that I am too critical or unappreciative. Now, I definitely appreciate everything she does as a homemaker and mother. My life would be much harder without her. But I like make things better...no matter how good they are already. Nothing's perfect right? So there is always room for improvement. I give what I consider feedback to DW for all kinds of things: recipes, parenting techniques, time management, driving, communicating...you name it and I probably give DW feedback on it. My intent when giving feedback is not to criticize something was just done, but rather to help it be done better next time. Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook. As the stakes go up (like with parenting techniques) so do the hurt feelings and the volume of the ensuing argument. I hope this view of what is probably going through your DH's head helps you understand the other side of the equation.

The good news is we've made significant improvements over the last year after many late night talks. I explained what I was meaning to say and she explained what she was hearing. Naturally, what was coming out of my mouth was not what was going into her ears. She now consciously tries not to take everything so personally. At the same time I am much more conscious about how I phrase feedback and about making sure I also give compliments and verbalize appreciation regularly. We haven't solved this problem yet, but we've made significant progress.

I knew I wasn't the only one who thinks things can always be improved!  At the same time my wife is not as sensitive as I thought if other people can perceive my feedback in the same manner.  Back to square one i guess.  I am slowly starting to realize that not everything the can be improved needs to or should be improved.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 10:59:14 PM by mxt0133 »

Argyle

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2014, 11:14:56 PM »
A person who thinks other people can always be improved and he is the one to point out what the improvements should be ... well, the word "self-righteous" comes to mind.  Along with some other terms I won't mention.

I think it behooves someone whose main relationship to the world is criticism to improve himself first.  The first order of business is to improve by accepting other people as they are.

People with a critical outlook often choose self-critical people as partners, because the self-critical people think, "He's right, I'm flawed, I'm inadequate ... I'm so inadequate I even get hurt at criticism!"

But the thing is that criticism is corrosive in a relationship.  If something needs to change — something big, something worth discussing, like overspending one's income or having damaging communication habits — it's worth sitting down and talking about it as calmly and non-judgmentally as possible.   Ideally these things will be rare.  If the criticism is every day, resentment is going to build, no matter how "well-meaning" the criticism.  No one likes another person to set himself up in a position of judgment. 

Sometimes, if the critic won't hear criticism himself and dial it down, it needs to be made clear — again as calmly and helpfully as possible — what all is at stake if the marriage becomes filled with conflict and bad feeling.

rocklebock

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2014, 11:38:32 PM »
+1 to Argyle. Daily, routine criticism is not at all healthy, normal, or OK in a relationship.

I've been this person. It's a really hard habit to break, but it's worth it. I have much better relationships with people now that I've stopped trying to force them to live up to my ideals.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 11:42:18 PM by rocklebock »

expatartist

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2014, 02:52:39 AM »
+1 to Argyle. Daily, routine criticism is not at all healthy, normal, or OK in a relationship.

I've been this person. It's a really hard habit to break, but it's worth it. I have much better relationships with people now that I've stopped trying to force them to live up to my ideals.

+2
I've been this person too. Still working on it. A key point in becoming aware of how critical I was , was DH calling me out on it, in a way that was (relatively) unemotional and/or impersonal. Usually after he'd chilled out after the incident, so wasn't lashing out.

Lhamo sounds like you've got good insights. Self-flagellation and criticism of others is a struggle for most high achieving individuals/couples. Keep it up, even on a smoggy day like today's!

shitzmagee

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2014, 05:38:12 AM »
A person who thinks other people can always be improved and he is the one to point out what the improvements should be ... well, the word "self-righteous" comes to mind.  Along with some other terms I won't mention.

I think it behooves someone whose main relationship to the world is criticism to improve himself first.  The first order of business is to improve by accepting other people as they are.

People with a critical outlook often choose self-critical people as partners, because the self-critical people think, "He's right, I'm flawed, I'm inadequate ... I'm so inadequate I even get hurt at criticism!"

But the thing is that criticism is corrosive in a relationship.  If something needs to change — something big, something worth discussing, like overspending one's income or having damaging communication habits — it's worth sitting down and talking about it as calmly and non-judgmentally as possible.   Ideally these things will be rare.  If the criticism is every day, resentment is going to build, no matter how "well-meaning" the criticism.  No one likes another person to set himself up in a position of judgment. 

Sometimes, if the critic won't hear criticism himself and dial it down, it needs to be made clear — again as calmly and helpfully as possible — what all is at stake if the marriage becomes filled with conflict and bad feeling.

(my intended tone below is passion for my beliefs on this topic and not condescension)

The flaw with what you're saying is assuming the other person is actually criticizing or judging (feedback =/= criticism or judgement, look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me) and that they don't do treat themselves the same. A relationship is about teamwork. If one member of the team is unwilling to change for the betterment of the team (this is called compromise and it goes both ways) then the relationship is flawed. I give DW feedback often as stated before, this does not imply that I don't give myself feedback or allow feedback from DW. It's quite the opposite, I am constantly evaluating things I've done and how I can do them better next time (I'm far from perfect) and I welcome any kind of feedback from DW (I actually have to tease it out of her most times).

You're idea that sharing feedback is somehow bad does not make sense to me at all. Do you also not share feedback with coworkers for the sake of making your work unit better (these are called hot washes)? I wouldn't want to work somewhere where giving/receiving feedback to/from teammates was looked down upon and I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who was not open to suggestions.

The root of the problem at hand is not that OP's DH is a jerk or self-righteous (could be the case, but let's not assume), it is poor communication between them both. For communication to be effective you need two things: 1) The sender must communicate in a way that the receiver can understand and 2) The receiver must be willing to receive the message. If either of these are messed up then the communication is not effective. For OP, you need to evaluate both sides of this equation. First, I would sit down with your DH and share with him how you are interpreting what he says. I'm willing to bet your interpretation is not the same as what he is trying to communicate (remember the telephone game?). This does not however imply the communication problem rests solely with you. He needs to be willing to compromise and change the way he communicates with you so that what your hearing is exactly what he means to say. At the same time, you need to make sure you are open to actually hearing what he is trying to say rather than making assumptions about what he is saying. Does that make sense?

Apples

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2014, 05:59:03 AM »
What's your primary love language?  Would it possibly be Words of Affirmation?  That's in my top two, which means that I can certainly handle some constructive critiques at work (though I'm still a little sensitive), but when my DH does it, I don't take it well.  Especially on those days/weeks when we aren't jiving as well and I think he's critiquing a lot.  It hurts.  It has a little bit to do with insecurity/sensitivity, but it mostly has to do with wanting those Words of Affirmation which show me love, and when the opposite happens it's a little like taking away love.  For lack of a better description.

Taking a break from being in the conversation is probably good, as is calling him out.  You may also want to, if it doesn't get better, keep track of what proportion of comments are positive or negative.  If they're 90% negative, there's a problem.  If it's about 50/50 or less, then it's mostly you needing to work on some insecurities.

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2014, 11:30:15 AM »
"You're idea that sharing feedback is somehow bad does not make sense to me at all. Do you also not share feedback with coworkers for the sake of making your work unit better (these are called hot washes)? I wouldn't want to work somewhere where giving/receiving feedback to/from teammates was looked down upon and I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who was not open to suggestions."

Shitz - what I'd like to point out regarding your comments above about feedback is that feedback is both negative and positive. What I don't like about the way my husband gives feedback is that he verbalized negative feedback more often than the positive feedback. This gives me a skewed impression of his overall opinion. You're right, feedback is fine as long as you are expressing ALL feedback (both positive and negative) and not being lazy about the positive stuff.

YoungInvestor

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2014, 11:37:25 AM »
It's hard to makeup my mind about this when I only see one side of this coin. Either he is too demanding or you are too insecure (Or anywhere on that spectrum, I guess).

It sounds like it's more the first than the latter, and if he acknowledges the problem (even if he doesn't fix it), I'd try to meet a couple therapy specialist to discuss it.

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2014, 12:23:32 PM »
Wow! A lot of good feedback here. I hope I can add something of value, even if it's difficult to hear.

Based on your upbringing, you were attracted to him because his style worked for you, at least at first. He has always been that way. It's the way he was raised, just as much as your need/response mechanism is a result of your childhood experiences.

You are reaching the end of your need/tolerance for his style. That could be a very good thing. Perhaps you don't feel the need to be coached the way you used to. The less good thing is that he is unlikely to change. His style is who he is.

Your most reasonable choice is to learn how not to take it personally. It won't be easy, but it will be far easier than trying to change him. I'd suggest you put on your air mask first, so you are sure to survive. It's possible he could change, but he's always been this way and you are the one who needs something different. Work on yourself and you will find that you're a much happier person, whatever happens in your life.

I was raised in a negative household. My dad was an air traffic controller. I could do 99 out of 100 things right and he saw only the mistake. Made him excellent at his job, but tough to be his kid. Mom was her own brand of negative. I was so used to the constant stream of negativity that I didn't know it was a constant stream of negativity. I just thought it was normal.

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2014, 01:03:36 PM »
It's been helpful to read this thread.

He may not realize that the feedback he's giving you feels like criticism.  Especially if he's a blunt person.  He might feel like his comments are more general or not even feedback to you, and not realize that they hurt you.

I'm dating someone who is a perfectionist and he surprised me by saying he feels overly criticized.  We're working on better communication, which includes the person feeling criticized stopping the conversation.  It helps us clarify what was said and let the other know how it made us feel.  It's a work in progress.

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2014, 02:08:10 PM »
NUF - you're precisely right. I completely agree. This exact point is what I was missing a year ago before DW and I started making progress ourselves. I didn't realize that she needed positive affirmation (I don't and I assumed she didn't either). When she explained that to me I had to adjust to accommodate her need. Once I started doing that I found that she started to become much more receptive to feedback which then led to much better communication overall.

Apples - I do not know the words for which you speak...but I am very intrigued. Is this related to the book that goldielocks mentioned, "The Five Love Languages"?

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #26 on: October 24, 2014, 02:54:43 PM »
I feel like I may need to re-read this thread every day as it is my life! I'm the "jerk" in this scenario. I like everything to be optimal which results in me saying minor things to "help out and improve" something DH is doing. He takes every comment personally..... Which I would then yell at him for taking something dumb personally when I was just trying to help. Yeah, I think you can all see how that plays out. I've resorted to biting my tongue when I can remember but that doesn't always work either because seeing something done the inefficient or not the best way over and over will then drive me insane!

I think you guys hit it right on the head that I'm not giving enough positive affirmation. Therefore everyone comes out as negative criticism. I've always wondered why he got so bothered when I was just trying to say things to help. Even saying stuff like, "hey set the washer to cold and high spin to save money" would return with an angry response. I just I should have just said thank you....

sheepstache

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #27 on: October 24, 2014, 04:24:39 PM »
A person who thinks other people can always be improved and he is the one to point out what the improvements should be ... well, the word "self-righteous" comes to mind.  Along with some other terms I won't mention.

I think it behooves someone whose main relationship to the world is criticism to improve himself first.  The first order of business is to improve by accepting other people as they are.

People with a critical outlook often choose self-critical people as partners, because the self-critical people think, "He's right, I'm flawed, I'm inadequate ... I'm so inadequate I even get hurt at criticism!"

But the thing is that criticism is corrosive in a relationship.  If something needs to change — something big, something worth discussing, like overspending one's income or having damaging communication habits — it's worth sitting down and talking about it as calmly and non-judgmentally as possible.   Ideally these things will be rare.  If the criticism is every day, resentment is going to build, no matter how "well-meaning" the criticism.  No one likes another person to set himself up in a position of judgment. 

Sometimes, if the critic won't hear criticism himself and dial it down, it needs to be made clear — again as calmly and helpfully as possible — what all is at stake if the marriage becomes filled with conflict and bad feeling.

(my intended tone below is passion for my beliefs on this topic and not condescension)

The flaw with what you're saying is assuming the other person is actually criticizing or judging (feedback =/= criticism or judgement, look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me) and that they don't do treat themselves the same. A relationship is about teamwork. If one member of the team is unwilling to change for the betterment of the team (this is called compromise and it goes both ways) then the relationship is flawed. I give DW feedback often as stated before, this does not imply that I don't give myself feedback or allow feedback from DW. It's quite the opposite, I am constantly evaluating things I've done and how I can do them better next time (I'm far from perfect) and I welcome any kind of feedback from DW (I actually have to tease it out of her most times).

You're idea that sharing feedback is somehow bad does not make sense to me at all. Do you also not share feedback with coworkers for the sake of making your work unit better (these are called hot washes)? I wouldn't want to work somewhere where giving/receiving feedback to/from teammates was looked down upon and I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who was not open to suggestions.

The root of the problem at hand is not that OP's DH is a jerk or self-righteous (could be the case, but let's not assume), it is poor communication between them both. For communication to be effective you need two things: 1) The sender must communicate in a way that the receiver can understand and 2) The receiver must be willing to receive the message. If either of these are messed up then the communication is not effective. For OP, you need to evaluate both sides of this equation. First, I would sit down with your DH and share with him how you are interpreting what he says. I'm willing to bet your interpretation is not the same as what he is trying to communicate (remember the telephone game?). This does not however imply the communication problem rests solely with you. He needs to be willing to compromise and change the way he communicates with you so that what your hearing is exactly what he means to say. At the same time, you need to make sure you are open to actually hearing what he is trying to say rather than making assumptions about what he is saying. Does that make sense?

Excellent username, btw. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you here but your way of putting things was the easiest to bounce ideas off of.

The bias of this approach is that change is a given and assumed to be good.
Quote
For communication to be effective you need two things: 1) The sender must communicate in a way that the receiver can understand and 2) The receiver must be willing to receive the message. If either of these are messed up then the communication is not effective.
Actually, before this happens, there is the Stoic Hurdle which must be cleared. The sender must decide whether their desire for something to change is actually valid or if they are the ones who need to adjust themselves and accept something that is not perfect. We're told over and over that communication is a good thing and therefore no one ever questions whether some communication simply isn't needed.

Could be an introvert vs. extrovert thing too. I see a lot of room for improvement in the world, but it doesn't occur to me to open my yap every single time something comes to mind. When with extroverts, it's always worth bearing in mind that they might be thinking out loud rather than trying to communicate with you.

Quote
You're idea that sharing feedback is somehow bad does not make sense to me at all. Do you also not share feedback with coworkers for the sake of making your work unit better (these are called hot washes)? I wouldn't want to work somewhere where giving/receiving feedback to/from teammates was looked down upon and I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who was not open to suggestions.

This could very much be a family history / cultural thing. Personally, when I'm at work, I want to be regularly improving things and myself. When I get home I want to be accepted. It's popular to criticize complacency. God, is it ever popular. But some things are good enough and that's okay. I enjoy drinking water. Could water be improved? Sure, I guess. Could my bed be more comfortable? Maybe. But it's really not a big deal. At the end of the day, I'm tired and need a place to sleep. I'm thirsty and need something to drink. The bed and the water, they're fine. When I like people who are close to me, it's because I essentially like them, they're fine. If they want a life coach to improve themselves, they can get that somewhere else.

My SO criticizes things like how I do dishes. I understand he's particular, so I took his suggestion about how he wanted them done. Then the next night he had another one. And the next.  And you know, I'm a grown adult and so far in life no one has gotten sick from eating off dishes I've washed. How I wash dishes is fine. But my point here is I fundamentally don't want to come home to my own home and my own family and get micromanaged every night. At some point, the situation has to be resolved. Feedback is fine, but that doesn't mean gratuitous, one-directional feedback every night is okay.

And family is a compromise. Just because he feels bothered by something or thinks it's a problem doesn't mean his viewpoint is more important than mine. My way of doing things should count for something even though I'm not the type to argue that it's the only right way.

On the flip side, I learned that he grew up with very different communication about pain and discomfort and I chose to adjust my own behavior. If he has a headache or something, he's constantly letting you know and I thought that was weird. In my family, you were supposed to have consideration for other people and realize that your physical discomforts might not be interesting topics of conversation. Interestingly, I realized this hinged on everyone assuming that everyone else has the same attitude. Once, when I told him I couldn't help with something because my back hurt, he was like, 'your back's still bothering you?' And I'm thinking, yeah, of course, I told you four hours ago it hurt. Because in my culture that I grew up in, everyone takes care to remember when someone has complained of a discomfort because we know the person doesn't want to be mentioning it constantly. But I realized the reason my SO talks about it so much when he has discomfort is because he thinks I won't know or be sympathetic otherwise.

Another difference in styles is that in my family we tend to take opposite sides of a debate when discussing a topic. Just because that's how you figure things out, by debating them. So even when the SO and I agree fundamentally on something, I'll play devil's advocate. This drives him nuts and he calls it being argumentative. It sets off this feeling in him that something is wrong with the relationship if we're disagreeing so much. So now I make sure we have at least some conversations where I just agree with him and stop there rather than continuing with, "but on the other hand . . ." I never even thought about this growing up, it was just the way people had conversations.

Finally, another difference is about complaining. My SO complains a lot about things that have nothing to do with me, but it still bothers me. He complains about our neighborhood, how inconsiderate our neighbors are. I've offered that we could move, that I'd be totally open to that. He complains about his boss. I suggest different ways of handling her or ideas about how he could get a new job. (And he actually agrees that we need to move and that he needs a new job.) Obviously, his criticism of our neighbors and his boss are not criticisms of me, but the constant bitching is still unpleasant to live with. Maybe for him part of the purpose of family is listening to venting sessions, but in the family I grew up in frequent venting sessions about the same things (particularly if it's a problem you can solve) are considered tiresome.

So, I guess my point re: "communication problems" is that that covers some thing but other times you can know where someone is coming from and still be bothered by it, or the person can know you're bothered by the behavior but still feel a deep need to do it. Anyway, sorry, OP, for tacking on my whole personal experience to your thread, I hope some of the ways I intended for it to be tangentially related to your experience came across.

(ps. I thought this was going to be another thread about like 'my mom is convinced biking to work is dangerous and wants to know why I want to live like a poor person, etc., etc.' But it's much more interesting!)
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 04:31:49 PM by sheepstache »

sheepstache

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2014, 04:39:08 PM »
I feel like I may need to re-read this thread every day as it is my life! I'm the "jerk" in this scenario. I like everything to be optimal which results in me saying minor things to "help out and improve" something DH is doing. He takes every comment personally..... Which I would then yell at him for taking something dumb personally when I was just trying to help. Yeah, I think you can all see how that plays out. I've resorted to biting my tongue when I can remember but that doesn't always work either because seeing something done the inefficient or not the best way over and over will then drive me insane!

I think you guys hit it right on the head that I'm not giving enough positive affirmation. Therefore everyone comes out as negative criticism. I've always wondered why he got so bothered when I was just trying to say things to help. Even saying stuff like, "hey set the washer to cold and high spin to save money" would return with an angry response. I just I should have just said thank you....

Ha, when you put it that way, it seems like both people have one big thing in common which is that they're bothered by problems and want to solve them. To your mind the problem is the washing machine or whatever isn't being run the best way and to the other person's mind the problem is, 'my spouse isn't happy.' Of course, for you, it might be a different problem every day, but for your husband, the 'my spouse isn't happy' alarm is going off on a regular basis and there's no way to fix the problem.

DeepEllumStache

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2014, 05:34:18 PM »
I feel like I may need to re-read this thread every day as it is my life! I'm the "jerk" in this scenario. I like everything to be optimal which results in me saying minor things to "help out and improve" something DH is doing. He takes every comment personally..... Which I would then yell at him for taking something dumb personally when I was just trying to help. Yeah, I think you can all see how that plays out. I've resorted to biting my tongue when I can remember but that doesn't always work either because seeing something done the inefficient or not the best way over and over will then drive me insane!

I think you guys hit it right on the head that I'm not giving enough positive affirmation. Therefore everyone comes out as negative criticism. I've always wondered why he got so bothered when I was just trying to say things to help. Even saying stuff like, "hey set the washer to cold and high spin to save money" would return with an angry response. I just I should have just said thank you....

Ha, when you put it that way, it seems like both people have one big thing in common which is that they're bothered by problems and want to solve them. To your mind the problem is the washing machine or whatever isn't being run the best way and to the other person's mind the problem is, 'my spouse isn't happy.' Of course, for you, it might be a different problem every day, but for your husband, the 'my spouse isn't happy' alarm is going off on a regular basis and there's no way to fix the problem.

Interesting point... the "my spouse isn't happy" alarm going off constantly then causes that person stress and makes them feel inadequate.

Cressida

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2014, 11:35:06 PM »
Personally, when I'm at work, I want to be regularly improving things and myself. When I get home I want to be accepted.

YES. If my husband treated me like a coworker I would be gone in a second. The situations are not the same in any way.

ender

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2014, 10:52:25 AM »
p.s. If you think the meal could be better next time, then you should make it. It is rude to say anything but appreciation when someone makes you dinner.

I agree. They probably know perfectly well that it wasn't very good. Saying nothing (that is, not making a point to say that you enjoyed it) will get the message across. If it doesn't, and they make it again and it still isn't good, THEN you can say something. But make it about you - "it's just not something I prefer, but thank you for making it" or something along those lines.

This is interesting to me, though tangential to the main topic here. When I was a kid, my parents would actively solicit feedback along the lines of, "that [meal, etc] was good, what do you think?"

If I didn't think it was that good, I basically had to either
  • lie
  • receive a "stop being so ungrateful!" chastisement from my parents.

I do not enjoy being asked questions which force this situation.

Distshore

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2014, 11:40:02 AM »
Firstly, to sheepstache, +1 whole post; I think you actually might be me and are living my life....absolute identical.  I realise now DH came from a family where negativity and nitpicking are just the normal way of dealing with life.  My own family tended towards the positive/argumentative/exploratory.  For example, my husband and I put a lot of work into our wedding, and of course his father had to tell us that "the cake was a bit too rich" and the servers cleared the dirty plates and glasses too fast.  Everyone else had a blast and didn't mind telling us....but they just seem to perceive the criticism as normal, so it is for them.

I've found that communication issues are always two ways.  That doesn't necessarily mean the fault lies equally with both parties ;) but you have to find a way of breaking the cycle that works for you both.

For me, being somewhat blunt, I will just tell my dearly beloved husband that, after he's had sufficient venting time about work (typically about half an hour is my limit of listening and sympathising) "I've had enough of this now; you work hard enough and let's leave the rest of it at work.  You can think about it again at 7.45 am tomorrow" (which is when he starts work).  He actually finds this useful; it lets him know when the venting is becoming a self-reinforcing unhappiness.

Likewise, when he gets narky he'll pick on the way I do things.  I try to listen, up to the point where I think it's getting ridiculous, and at that point I will say that I don't wish to be micro-managed as his parents have done to him.  I will make reasonable accommodation for his viewpoint, but I'm an adult who has not yet managed to kill him or anyone else with the way I do things and that is good enough for both of us; he should be grateful he's getting dinner cooked/dishes washed/clothes folded or whatever.  If it's so important to him it be done a certain way, he can do it himself.

So basically, I'll let him do his thing and then tell him clearly and (usually) politely when I've had enough of it, and when I need something different like affection/thanks/silence.  For us, me retreating into offended silence OR blasting out furiously (also been there, done that) doesn't work, because it doesn't explain to him what he's doing and how it's affecting both me and him.  That said, sometimes he has to tell me not to be angry at him ;)

So in this way, we live in pretty good harmony and much affection; I would not agree with shitzmagee that all communication is by definition good, including "feedback"; but rather that quality of communication is really important.  But you've got to find a way that works for both of you.  I think you will find though, that speaking up/defending yourself reduces your own frustration and may enable you to stop perceiving so much as criticism.  Weird, but if you defend yourself (not defensively but by open, non-aggro communication about what's being said and why/how it affects you, and what could change to help), the act of defense can make you feel like you're worthy of being defended, and in turn  make you more open to hearing what he says without taking it as an assault.




daverobev

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2014, 11:56:47 AM »
Very interesting thread.

I am certainly the 'jerk' in our relationship. I am also the worrier, which isn't something that's come up thus far in the topic.

Re the washing up... Too funny. I do pick at my wife's washing up... when there are bits of food left on the cutlery!! Ha.

But the stuff about there always being something to complain about resonates. She and I have different priorities. I, as I said, am a worrier, thinking about money, the environment, etc. She is not. I mean - she's more environmentally socially conscious than I am, but she doesn't *worry* like I do.

Anyway, I forwarded this on to her, hopefully it'll make for an interesting chat.

retired?

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #34 on: October 25, 2014, 12:06:59 PM »
Two bits of feedback (on the feedback thread):

1)  When one tries to improve, there is a cost (time, mental cost, etc.) and a benefit (financial, feeling good about oneself, etc.).  The perceived cost and benefit about any of these sorts of things is very personal.  Thus, when one "optimizes" another might feel like they are wasting effort on the little things.  It is certainly judgmental to try to impose one's ideas on another.  Admittedly, I cannot understand why my wife cannot turn off lights (to me, that's more clear cut). 

2)  Over my career, I have worked with many Chinese people, who are first generation American, i.e. essentially grew up in China and moved to the U.S. for grad school or other opportunity.  They recognize the bluntness and difference in behavior/culture.  What I noticed is the view is not that the behavior is correct/ideal/preferred, but that they didn't like being on the receiving end of it either.  But, it is sort of a "that's how we are" view.  As one colleague said "we are different".  i.e. we do it b/c we've always done it.....not nec b/c we believe it is best.  Note - the ones that were able to assimilate did much, much better.  Some of those that carried on their behavior knew it was detrimental, but kept it up.  A little bit of a superiority complex with some.

mm1970

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #35 on: October 25, 2014, 03:53:02 PM »
p.s. If you think the meal could be better next time, then you should make it. It is rude to say anything but appreciation when someone makes you dinner.

I agree. They probably know perfectly well that it wasn't very good. Saying nothing (that is, not making a point to say that you enjoyed it) will get the message across. If it doesn't, and they make it again and it still isn't good, THEN you can say something. But make it about you - "it's just not something I prefer, but thank you for making it" or something along those lines.
Quote
Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook.

Ditto!  If you want to improve dinner, you cook it.

My MIL has a new boyfriend (in their 70's now), and he CONSTANTLY critiques her dinners with suggested improvements.  She's pissed!  She says "cook it yourself!"

Or cook it with her.  Otherwise, keep your mouth shut!

My husband and I have an agreement on this type of thing.  Example: dishes.  Whoever does the dishes, the other person has NO RIGHT to complain about how they were done.  So, I wash everything but the pots?  I washed the dishes, no complaining.  He leaves the last load of laundry unfolded on the bed?  Hey, he did the laundry.

If you aren't helping, you shouldn't critique, unless she's asking for help.  Micromanagement anyone?

shitzmagee

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #36 on: October 25, 2014, 08:08:15 PM »
Quote
Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook.

Ditto!  If you want to improve dinner, you cook it.

My MIL has a new boyfriend (in their 70's now), and he CONSTANTLY critiques her dinners with suggested improvements.  She's pissed!  She says "cook it yourself!"

Or cook it with her.  Otherwise, keep your mouth shut!

My husband and I have an agreement on this type of thing.  Example: dishes.  Whoever does the dishes, the other person has NO RIGHT to complain about how they were done.  So, I wash everything but the pots?  I washed the dishes, no complaining.  He leaves the last load of laundry unfolded on the bed?  Hey, he did the laundry.

If you aren't helping, you shouldn't critique, unless she's asking for help.  Micromanagement anyone?
[/quote]

Your complete misunderstanding of what I was saying is a perfect example of hearing (or reading) what you want rather than what the other person is actually saying.

Bottom line is I hope the OP is able to fix the way her and her DH communicate without one of them being shut down.

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #37 on: October 25, 2014, 10:11:30 PM »
You cannot change the way HE communicates. The only thing you have control over is your own response.

Two books that have helped me--both frankly corny, but worked for me anyway--were Complaint Free World and the communication chapter in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #38 on: October 25, 2014, 10:39:48 PM »
p.s. If you think the meal could be better next time, then you should make it. It is rude to say anything but appreciation when someone makes you dinner.

:)  This just made me laugh (in a good way). It reminded me of a conversation with my last partner. He had pitched that I cook the salmon that evening. I paused, and made a decision to be very brave. I said, "When I cook the salmon, and in a way that I love it and lots of other people love it, you complain about it. So, I always just let you cook the salmon now, because that's how you're happy." He said, "That's because I make it properly, I cook it correctly." I paused again, and made another decision to be very brave. "You're a phenomenal cook, for sure, and I love the taste of so much of what you make...but I don't love your salmon as much as I love my salmon." He was stunned. It had absolutely not ever occurred to him that there was such a thing as preferences or personal taste in food, just a "right way" and a "wrong way" and his was the right one. lol. He was blown away, not having realized he approached things this way.

A friend of mine, her husband never said anything nice about her cooking, and sometimes overtly criticized it. Boy, was she surprised when she went to a community potluck that rated the dishes and won first prize. And then won first prize at the next one. And then... She eventually divorced him, hee.

lhamo, you freakin' rock. The fact that you are even asking this question -constructive approaches for dealing with criticism from a loved one, i.e., taking responsibility for you- shows that in spades. I have no tips, only admiration and cheers!

sheepstache

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #39 on: October 25, 2014, 10:44:04 PM »
Quote
Quote
Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook.

Ditto!  If you want to improve dinner, you cook it.

My MIL has a new boyfriend (in their 70's now), and he CONSTANTLY critiques her dinners with suggested improvements.  She's pissed!  She says "cook it yourself!"

Or cook it with her.  Otherwise, keep your mouth shut!

My husband and I have an agreement on this type of thing.  Example: dishes.  Whoever does the dishes, the other person has NO RIGHT to complain about how they were done.  So, I wash everything but the pots?  I washed the dishes, no complaining.  He leaves the last load of laundry unfolded on the bed?  Hey, he did the laundry.

If you aren't helping, you shouldn't critique, unless she's asking for help.  Micromanagement anyone?

Your complete misunderstanding of what I was saying is a perfect example of hearing (or reading) what you want rather than what the other person is actually saying.

Bottom line is I hope the OP is able to fix the way her and her DH communicate without one of them being shut down.

Hm, sounds like you're not open to feedback about how you conveyed what you were trying to say. Or you're not open to the feedback that people understand your opinion but still disagree with it.

I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but my point is the "I'm allowed to say whatever I want because it's feedback and if you don't appreciate it than you're shutting me down or deliberately misunderstanding me" game can come from both sides. Like it or not, "I think it's rude to negatively comment on dinner" is valid feedback. The opinion that sometimes feedback is not appropriate is valid feedback.

At the risk of belaboring something, I'm going to add a bit more to my thinking. Some of the regular-feedback-givers may be responding personally to negative responses to feedback as though the content or intent of their feedback is being criticized. But, as I say below, part of the issue may be the feedback format, which they're only partially responsible for. Say, when I get martial arts training, I expect regular feedback from the instructor while I don't give any feedback myself. I might prefer one instructor over another because of the content of the feedback, but the format is what I expect. Now, it would be natural for someone to be bothered by regularly being treated like a pupil in what's supposed to be a partner relationship. Obviously partners can teach one another things. My SO's very good at cooking certain dishes that I'm not familiar with, so when I try to make them, I expect and appreciate feedback. But treating one's partner as a student all the time suggests inequality, and will have a global effect, regardless of the intention of any one piece of feedback. And you may be following a pattern of treating them like a student without any intention of doing that. If you're giving 1. regular, 2. unrequested, 3. one-sided feedback to your partner, that creates a format which they may be responding to moreso than the content and you're only responsible for, say, 1.5 of those aspects. It's not your fault your partner doesn't ask for feedback and isn't the type to give regular feedback. Perhaps look at modifying 1 or 2, though. Can you simply reduce the frequency? Can you find out from your partner what things they _do_ appreciate feedback on and stick to those?

Bear in mind, feedback is only effective if the other person wants it. The first time, you can say your intention is to improve the dish. Once you've gotten clear feedback your partner doesn't want the feedback, you know know it will not serve this purpose. So you have to ask yourself what your intention really is.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2014, 11:54:31 PM by sheepstache »

sheepstache

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #40 on: October 25, 2014, 11:16:21 PM »

Also, when teaching I was surprised to hear that people usually don't perceive ANY positive feedback until it reaches a 3:1 ratio with negative.  Our brains are primed to notice the negative and this results in the need for more positive incidents to actually register. (On a side note, A students seem to want only the negative, how to improve comments, while other students are pleased to get feedback on what to continue to do, what works...)

Best of luck untangling all the threads of your interaction.

This reminds me of an interesting explanation about why we find it so hard to give positive feedback. It has to do with statistics, specifically reversion to the mean. As someone improves, their average is slowly going up over time, but not smoothly. A particularly good performance is one that is above their current average. So the likeliest possibility is that their next performance will be lower. Likewise, if they have a particularly bad performance, the odds are that the next one will be better, more in the direction of the average.

Now, think of this in terms of the feedback the instructor gets. Instance 1, the instructor gives positive feedback, then the next performance is worse. Instance 2, the instructor gives negative feedback, then the next performance is better.

It's really difficult for an instructor to ignore this feedback pattern that seems to suggest that positive feedback immediately leads to worse performance and vice versa. So, despite all the evidence that positive feedback is more effective across a broad range of activities, there's still a lot of negative feedback done (there are probably other social/psychological reasons too).

(And I mean, my point w/r/t the OP's post is that an instructor/student format isn't necessarily the right thing in a partner relationship, regardless of the content of the feedback, I just thought this explanation was really interesting.)
« Last Edit: October 25, 2014, 11:24:04 PM by sheepstache »

shelivesthedream

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #41 on: October 26, 2014, 04:58:12 AM »
I also struggle a lot with taking criticism. To me, feedback is calm, private, rational/objective, and up for discussion. Anything else is criticism. I criticise myself enough that any criticism from others merely validates and reinforces my own negative self-image.

However, sometimes I do things wrong or badly. My husband and I have a few rules which help.

1. Pick your battles/if it bothers you, do it yourself. This reduces total criticism and also means I am more likely to take it as feedback because I know it will be something he has deliberately chosen to say.
2. Be nice/tone of voice. He often prefaces it with "I'm not just criticising, but..." Which makes me feel that the criticism/feedback is actually about the thing he said it was, not about my whole self.
3. I complain a lot sometimes. He hates it, but it's important to me to vent. So when I come home from work, I get between five and ten minutes a day to gratuitously complain about whatever I want - then I have to shut up. It means he actually listens for that limited amount of time too!
4. I try to ask for reassurance when I need it, although this is hard and can get annoying for him.


shitzmagee

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #42 on: October 26, 2014, 06:13:28 AM »
Quote
Quote
Simple example: DW makes dinner. Even if it is delicious I may offer a tweak to the recipe for it to be even better next time. DW immediately thinks that I didn't like dinner and that I think she's a horrible cook.

Ditto!  If you want to improve dinner, you cook it.

My MIL has a new boyfriend (in their 70's now), and he CONSTANTLY critiques her dinners with suggested improvements.  She's pissed!  She says "cook it yourself!"

Or cook it with her.  Otherwise, keep your mouth shut!

My husband and I have an agreement on this type of thing.  Example: dishes.  Whoever does the dishes, the other person has NO RIGHT to complain about how they were done.  So, I wash everything but the pots?  I washed the dishes, no complaining.  He leaves the last load of laundry unfolded on the bed?  Hey, he did the laundry.

If you aren't helping, you shouldn't critique, unless she's asking for help.  Micromanagement anyone?

Your complete misunderstanding of what I was saying is a perfect example of hearing (or reading) what you want rather than what the other person is actually saying.

Bottom line is I hope the OP is able to fix the way her and her DH communicate without one of them being shut down.

Hm, sounds like you're not open to feedback about how you conveyed what you were trying to say. Or you're not open to the feedback that people understand your opinion but still disagree with it.

I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but my point is the "I'm allowed to say whatever I want because it's feedback and if you don't appreciate it than you're shutting me down or deliberately misunderstanding me" game can come from both sides. Like it or not, "I think it's rude to negatively comment on dinner" is valid feedback. The opinion that sometimes feedback is not appropriate is valid feedback.

At the risk of belaboring something, I'm going to add a bit more to my thinking. Some of the regular-feedback-givers may be responding personally to negative responses to feedback as though the content or intent of their feedback is being criticized. But, as I say below, part of the issue may be the feedback format, which they're only partially responsible for. Say, when I get martial arts training, I expect regular feedback from the instructor while I don't give any feedback myself. I might prefer one instructor over another because of the content of the feedback, but the format is what I expect. Now, it would be natural for someone to be bothered by regularly being treated like a pupil in what's supposed to be a partner relationship. Obviously partners can teach one another things. My SO's very good at cooking certain dishes that I'm not familiar with, so when I try to make them, I expect and appreciate feedback. But treating one's partner as a student all the time suggests inequality, and will have a global effect, regardless of the intention of any one piece of feedback. And you may be following a pattern of treating them like a student without any intention of doing that. If you're giving 1. regular, 2. unrequested, 3. one-sided feedback to your partner, that creates a format which they may be responding to moreso than the content and you're only responsible for, say, 1.5 of those aspects. It's not your fault your partner doesn't ask for feedback and isn't the type to give regular feedback. Perhaps look at modifying 1 or 2, though. Can you simply reduce the frequency? Can you find out from your partner what things they _do_ appreciate feedback on and stick to those?

Bear in mind, feedback is only effective if the other person wants it. The first time, you can say your intention is to improve the dish. Once you've gotten clear feedback your partner doesn't want the feedback, you know know it will not serve this purpose. So you have to ask yourself what your intention really is.

Sheep, I hear what you're saying and I think it's clear you understand where I'm coming from yet still disagree, so I am open to your feedback (which has been useful and insightful). I am not open to the feedback from some of the others in the thread because it's appears clear to me they made no attempt understand what I was saying before offering their feedback. It's the same thing as the original problem, just one step down the communication chain.

In our scenario of making dinner, it's like you rejected a suggestion I made because you think I'm wrong and the suggestion would not make dinner better next time. I'm perfectly OK with this situation (this is open, two-way communication). But in the same scenario, mm1970 immediately got offended that I offered a suggestion at all without any thought on whether the suggestion was a good one or not (not effective communication).

I think it's ironic and hilarious that this thread has turned into a living case study of the OP's problem.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #43 on: October 26, 2014, 08:16:11 AM »
Still reading through the replies, but want to offer my two cents before leaving for work.

OP - what's really helped me in this department is what melalvai wrote on my journal (you know the post I'm talking about) concerning the spirit of curiosity versus spirit of disrespectful judgment. In other words, when your DH says things like this, treat it as something you learn about HIM, not so much something about YOU.

By all means communicate with him, but don't let anything breed resentment. The unconditional love required to maintain this mindset can be exhausting, but it's worth it.

I brought up this mantra to my own wife. Both of us, at times, are the "feedback giver". I don't know for sure if she's using the same technique as I have, but I've noticed a different tone and attention in our conversations ever since sharing with her what melalvai shared.

mm1970

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #44 on: October 26, 2014, 08:40:23 AM »
Quote
I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but my point is the "I'm allowed to say whatever I want because it's feedback and if you don't appreciate it than you're shutting me down or deliberately misunderstanding me" game can come from both sides. Like it or not, "I think it's rude to negatively comment on dinner" is valid feedback. The opinion that sometimes feedback is not appropriate is valid feedback.
Pretty much this.

Is the feedback wanted?  What is the purpose of you giving the feedback?

Look, I'm not a chef.  I learned to cook at 32.  I work my butt off to do ALLLL the cooking for the family, after working a full work day, and I do it with two kids at my heels.

I DO NOT want ANY feedback on my cooking from someone who isn't cooking!  Unless I personally don't like what I ate, then I might ask for tips.

On the other hand, our house is always cluttered.  It's impossible to keep on top of it.  About 8 years ago or so, my husband suggested that I put my keys in the same place every day, then I won't lose them!  My goodness he was right.  But at the time we were both struggling with being able to find things (we still can't find many things, but that's because we have 2 kids, and 2x as many things).

YOU think you are making things better, but as a wise boss of mine once said "The perfect is the enemy of the good".  In engineering anyway, we can waste a LOT of time trying to make things perfect when they are GOOD ENOUGH.  Time is MUCH better spent fixing things that are BROKEN.

lhamo

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #45 on: October 26, 2014, 04:03:06 PM »
Wow -- this may be a weird thing to say but it has helped me a lot to see how many other people struggle with this issue in their relationships!  I guess I should have known it would be common, but sometimes I get so locked up in my own story about how screwed up my psychology is that I fail to see that a lot of what I think/do/feel/experience is actually pretty common. 

We had a pretty good weekend communication wise.  Not perfect, but better.  Clearly it will be a work in progress. 


daverobev

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #46 on: October 26, 2014, 04:30:28 PM »
This probably doesn't help the OP, but again, as the 'jerk', I'm finding it quite hostile in here ;)

Obviously it has to be a compromise based on how each person sees themselves and how each person sees the other person. It IS about communication.

And while I can totally see things in the non-jerk's perspective, not doing the washing up properly is just not acceptable. Mixing clean and dirty is not acceptable (no, I am not OCD, but I lived alone for a long time). Making a massive mess in the kitchen and not tidying up properly is not acceptable.

But, of course, it gets accepted. Sometimes things just get thrown back in the sink to be washed up again, sometimes it gets mentioned. This is just an example, of course.

It is intensely frustrating to see someone who is otherwise intelligent and capable shooting themselves in the foot because of the same lack of attention as shown by the washing up. Getting parking tickets, paying 3x as much for something because they were in a rush, missing a deadline because of procrastination.

So yeah, there is certainly an amount of STFU and DIY on some stuff, and no there is no 'where do you draw the line' because there can't be a line in a relationship - it has to be give and take.

I would posit that, often, the frustration shown to a partner is just letting out one's own frustrations with someone one is close to.

Also, the... 'I'm at home, so I don't want feedback' thing - again, understood, but OTOH, I think 'I'm at home and I don't want to deal with dirty dishes in the sink' is just as reasonable.

It's hard, certainly. It took a while for me to realise how much my mum and me bickering affected other people. It's just part of our relationship - or at least, it was, until I moved away and got married. Now I find my mum, sometimes, really hard work! But my wife still gets upset at me bickering! So what do you do.

You compromise, talk it through, try to agree. Yes, I will try to compliment more even though it feels, quite honestly, fake. I'm British, for goodness sake. I "just don't get it" - honestly I don't, really and truly. Why do you need to be *told* you look nice?? But - that is my problem.

I digress. My point is... it's not easy, both sides have to be open, it's likely to feel awkward. I am not wrong to want the cutlery clean. She is not wrong to want compliments.

Argyle

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #47 on: October 26, 2014, 04:45:49 PM »
Of course one person's "unacceptable" is often another person's "Get off my back and do it yourself if you're so uptight."  Cutlery washing standards?  Underwear on the floor?  Mixing up the whites and the colored clothes when you do the laundry?  How the dishwasher gets loaded?  Throwing the toilet paper cardboard tube away when you take it off vs. setting it on the counter?  Changing the toilet paper vs. just setting a new roll on the back of the toilet?  Kids' toys on the floor?  Drinking out of the milk carton?  Washing the peanut butter knife right away vs. leaving it in the sink?  How often do the sheets get changed?  Vacuum the floor once a day, once a week, once a month, or once every six months?  Whether all of those things are unacceptable or acceptable will seem obvious to each person, yet the answers will be different to different people.  So it's not as easy as establishing universal standards of unacceptability.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #48 on: October 26, 2014, 04:59:53 PM »
I am not wrong to want the cutlery clean. She is not wrong to want compliments.

And even: You are not wrong to want the cutlery clean, and she is not wrong to want it dirty, or to want to wash quickly, or to be entirely comfortable using cutlery with old food stuck on them.

This is a real life example from my last relationship, too. I actually brought it up in a counselling session we were in: I want to eat only off of dishes that have no old food stuck to them. My partner was wildly irritated by that need. He was willing to slow down a tad when he was washing, but he wasn't willing to go so far as to look and/or feel the dishes to determine whether they were clean before setting them to dry. It was only two days ago -a full six months after I finally left the relationship- that I understood that for him, wanting dirty dishes was exactly as correct and valid as my wanting clean ones. I might even be in some sort of dish preference majority (I'm not even sure if that's so), but even if that were true, it would still be so that his desire for fast and dirty dishes is absolutely as valid as mine.

Hee, I laugh now to think he should have said to me, "Would you be willing to leave just a bit of crud on even 50% of the dishes?" That would have (a) made me laugh very hard (which would have made him happy too), and (b) made me realize what I realized only two days ago. Not that I have any regrets, but it's a solid takeaway for me in any future relationships: What can I actually live with? Because the other person's ways and preferences are exactly as valid as mine are.

An aside: Something I love about my pretty screwed up family of origin is that we do accept each other's quirky needs. One needs the dishes done fast and dirty (it's true; she gets very upset if I'm being thorough), so I try to do them that way at her place. One needs the dishes lined up in specific layout on the counter next to the sink, and the dishcloth hung over the sink divider -not the faucet- so when I'm there I happily do that. Another prefers to do all guests' dishes himself, so I leave them, but he won't wash a cheese grater, so I make sure to do that before I go. When my last partner was infuriated by my quirks (and those of my family members), I realized what a gift my family members give each other in feeling entirely calm, peaceful, and roomy about the funny things in ourselves and others.

daverobev

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Re: Dealing with criticism from a loved one -- constructive strategies?
« Reply #49 on: October 26, 2014, 05:14:46 PM »
Slightly offtopic: When we visited my cousin in Oz a few years back, I was amazed to hear:

Good eating, Molly.
Good walking, Molly.
Good poohing, Molly (well no, but that was the joke afterwards).
Bad behaviour, Molly.

Instead of "Good Molly" or "Bad Molly".

I thought that was fascinating - the point being to criticise or praise the behaviour, not the person.

Hmm. Not sure how offtopic this is. I guess we don't usually go "Horrible wife!" but rather "Your washinguppery doth not suffice!"